Jesse Ryder out of induced coma and interacting with family after sickening assault in Christchurch

Ryder releases statement after brutal attack as cricketer says he feels 'heaps better' after coming out of induced coma

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

00:05 GMT, 31 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

07:04 GMT, 31 March 2013

New Zealand cricketer Jesse Ryder today said he was 'heaps better' but 'really tired' in his first public statement since the attack which put him in intensive care.

The 28-year-old Wellington all-rounder was admitted to Christchurch Hospital in the early hours of Thursday morning and placed in an induced coma after suffering multiple injuries, including a fractured skull, in an attack outside a bar.

Ryder was yesterday brought out of the coma and is now out of intensive care.

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Critical condition: Jesse Ryder

Support: Ryder

Stable condition: Jesse Ryder has come out of an induced coma and is regaining speech

Scene: The New Zealand cricketer was attacked close to Aikmans Bar

Scene: The New Zealand cricketer was attacked close to Aikmans Bar

He today he released a statement
saying: 'I just want to let everyone know that I’m okay. I feel heaps
better today but still really tired.

'I’ve been reading your messages that have been sent so thank you to everyone for thinking of me over the last few days.

'I want to thank everyone who has
been caring for me at the hospital – they have been awesome. Thank you
to my family and friends who have been here also.'

Two men – a 20-year-old and a 37-year-old who police said are related – will appear in court on Thursday charged with assault.

Found: The McDonald's in Merivale, Christchurch, where Ryder was found

Followed: The McDonald's in Merivale, Christchurch, where Ryder was attacked

Induced coma: Ryder remains in Christchurch hospital

Induced coma: Ryder remains in Christchurch hospital

Police chief reveals details of incident which left Jesse Ryder…

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Police believe Ryder was involved in
an altercation with two people outside Aikmans bar in the Christchurch
suburb of Merivale shortly after 12.30am local time on Thursday morning,
and was then assaulted by one of the two, who followed him towards the
car park of a nearby McDonald’s.

Ryder, a controversial figure whose
career has been plagued by off-field incidents, has not played for New
Zealand since February last year.

He spent three days in intensive care
but on Saturday his manager, Aaron Klee, revealed that he is now
breathing independently and talking to his family. Police have arrested
two men.

Former New Zealand pace bowler Iain O'Brien said of Ryder: 'He's the kind of guy that always will have a drink.

Jesse Ryder

Jesse Ryder

International: Ryder has played 18 Tests, 39 ODIs and 20 T20s for his country

'When he is off the stuff he's a
wonderful, wonderful man – he's one of the funniest guys and very jovial
– but on the other side of it, when he has been drinking he can
certainly suffer the lows.'

Ryder has played 18 Tests and 39 one-day internationals for the Black Caps, his last appearance an ODI against South Africa.

David Moyes picture Playboy model Hannah Elizabeth, Sara Beverly Jones Tony Bellew fight Liverpool Echo Arena

Moyes eyes a couple of strikers! Everton boss poses with blonde beauties before Bellew's bout

By
Lee Bryan

PUBLISHED:

02:55 GMT, 31 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

03:01 GMT, 31 March 2013

David Moyes was grinning like a Cheshire cat on Saturday – and for good reason.

After watching Everton see off Stoke thanks to Kevin Mirallas' splendid strike at Goodison Park, the 49-year-old Scot proved he's still got it, sandwiching himself between a couple of glamour girls at Liverpool's Echo Arena.

Moyes was there to support Toffees fan Tony Bellew in his bout against Isaac Chilemba – which ended in a draw – but he got a little more than he bargained for in his ringside seat.

Blonde ambition: David Moyes is grabbed by a pair of Betfair beauties at the Echo Arena

Blonde ambition: David Moyes is grabbed by a pair of Betfair beauties at the Echo Arena

Everton skipper Phil Neville was quick to tweet the picture, saying: “Moyes at the boxing, go on son! That's how your Boss rolls” is he in bellews corner'

Playboy model Hannah Elizabeth, pictured left in the picture, remarked on the social network site: 'howlin that I was sittin next to David Moyes ringside n got a pic on his knee with my @SaraBeverley #LEG'

Her pal Sara Beverly Jones – an actress, presenter and promotional model – added: 'Me and @misshannahelizx on David moyes knee! Ha my face! … Add your own caption.'

In this case, we think a picture tells a thousand words…

Montrose 0 Rangers 0 – match report: Ally McCoist"s men crowned Irn-Bru Scottish Third Division champions

Montrose 0 Rangers 0: McCoist's men crowned champions despite goalless draw

By
Lisa Gray, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

15:22 GMT, 30 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

02:00 GMT, 31 March 2013

Rangers clinched the Irn-Bru Third Division title on Saturday to complete stage one of their journey back to the top of Scottish Football.

The Light Blues were held to a goalless draw at Montrose in a noon kick-off but were confirmed as champions three hours later when a Stuart Leslie penalty secured victory for Elgin over Queen's Park.

The result at Hampden means nearest rivals Queen's cannot catch the Ibrox outfit in the title race, as Ally McCoist secured his first piece of silverware as Rangers manager.

Get the party started: Rangers players pose after winning the Third Division

Get the party started: Rangers players pose after winning the Third Division

Goaless: Rangers' Kane Hemmings tussles for the ball with Cammy MacDonald

Goaless: Rangers' Kane Hemmings tussles for the ball with Cammy MacDonald

His side have looked unconvincing at
times this term but have done enough to force themselves over the
finishing line with several games to spare, following their demotion to
the bottom tier of Scottish football after being consigned to
liquidation in the summer and losing their top-flight status.

Rangers made two changes following last week's drab stalemate against Stirling at Ibrox for the clash at Montrose.

David Templeton and Ian Black returned
from injury and suspension respectively to start, with Barrie McKay and
Fraser Aird dropping to the bench.

Rangers were handed a tough match the last time they visited Links Park in December, leaving with a hard-fought 4-2 win.

Chalked off: Montrose's Martin Boyle has finds the net only to have his goal ruled out

Chalked off: Montrose's Martin Boyle finds the net only to have his goal ruled out

This time around, they started sharply
with efforts from Robbie Crawford and Lee McCulloch blocked in quick
succession, before Kyle Hutton eventually rifled wide.

Templeton tested the goalkeeper when
he collected a Kane Hemmings header before unleashing an impressive half
volley that stung the palms of John Gibson.

The winger was threatening again when
he cut inside from the left before having another crack at goal but
Stephen McNally blocked for a corner.

Templeton then turned provider for Lee
Wallace and his effort was touched onto the bar by the keeper, as
Rangers kept up the pressure.

At the other end, a Paul Watson strike from distance took a massive deflection and spun just past the upright.

Champions elect Ally McCoist side could still become champions if Queens Park slip up against Elgin City

A matter of time: Ally McCoist side could still become champions if Queens Park slip up against Elgin City

Bolstered by the chance, the home side carved out another couple of decent opportunities.

David Gray – who has netted home and
away against Gers this season – forced a save from Neil Alexander,
before Alan Campbell glanced a header inches wide.

Montrose should have taken the lead
through Martin Boyle but his back post header was off target when he
should have had the net bulging.

The home side picked up where they
left off in the second half when Gray pounced on a poor clearance from
Emilson Cribari and lashed narrowly over the crossbar a minute after the
restart.

Crunch: Ian Black takes a tough challenge from Montrose's Terry Masson

Crunch: Ian Black takes a tough challenge from Montrose's Terry Masson

Rangers had a good chance of their own when Wallace's cut-back found Hemmings and his shot forced a decent save from Gibson.

Montrose thought they had taken the lead when they had the ball in the net after 65 minutes.

Alexander fumbled an awkward cross
that fell for Terry Masson. His shot was saved but the keeper could not
hold that ball, which was turned into the empty net by Boyle.

But the goal was disallowed by referee Kevin Clancy for a foul on Alexander.

It looked to be a controversial
decision and a let off for Rangers, whose celebrations came later in the
day as they made the trip back to Ibrox and took a major step in their
road to recovery.

Tony Bellew draws with Isaac Chilemba, putting Chad Dawson title fight in jeopardy

Bellew left frustrated in bid to line up Dawson title fight after draw with Chilemba

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

01:10 GMT, 31 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:12 GMT, 31 March 2013

Tony Bellew was left frustrated in Liverpool after a lackadaisical performance saw him draw with fellow world title contender Isaac Chilemba in Liverpool.

The 30-year-old Scouser knew victory in this WBC light-heavyweight title final eliminator would put him in position to take on American champion Chad Dawson, who first defends his title against Adonis Stevenson in June.

Bellew was unable to force that title challenge, though, with a laboured night's work in front of 7,000 partisan fans at the Echo Arena in his home city.

Bellew – with a record of 19-1 with 12 early wins heading in – is ranked at number one with the WBC having steadily rebuilt since his only career defeat, which came against British rival Nathan Cleverly for the Welshman's WBO title in 2011.

Head-to-head: Tony Bellew (right) drew with Isaac Chilemba

Head-to-head: Tony Bellew (right) drew with Isaac Chilemba

Malawi native Chilemba, with a record of 20-1-1 (9KO wins) heading into the encounter, represented another step up for the Englishman and boasted a number three ranking with the WBC.

Everton fanatic Bellew, watched by Toffees manager David Moyes in the crowd and entering the ring the club's Z Cars theme tune, started positively in an untidy first round, landing a solid early right hand to mark Chilemba's card before the two had to be pulled apart after the bell.

Bellew employed the jab in the second with some success but Chilemba was ready to counter when the chance arose.

Both men landed stiff right hands in an otherwise-tepid third round with Bellew struggling to pin down the visitor. Both men traded close-in in the fourth with Bellew just about coming off better thanks to a stern body shot and right hand.

Another burst of action saw the Scouser repeat the attack with a left hook to the stomach and glancing right but Chilemba was certainly making a fight of it.

Chilemba bullied the home favourite across the ring with one attack without doing any real damage but looked to have done enough to win the round.

Bellew was labouring but did land a long right hand in the sixth, though the African was landing more prolifically. Chilemba was progressing from prey to predator, taking ring centre in the middle rounds. A Bellew right made him think twice for a moment.

Chilemba was more accurate and, as his confidence grew, more aggressive. The consensus at ringside was that the fight was level after eight rounds but Chilemba had the momentum heading into the ninth. Chilemba landed two body shots before Bellew responded with a booming right and following it up with two more decent shots.

The Englishman had sparked into life at last, doubling up the jab before a left to the body and short right gave him a strong finish before the bell.

Chilemba began the 10th well, landing hard shots from range and edging the round. The underdog's combination punching was superior too as he arguably did enough to take the 11th, picking his punches and landing eye-catching shots with the right.

It was all to play for heading into the final round and Chilemba landed a right followed by a counter left hook to Bellew's temple.

Bellew still seemed flat, only sporadically forcing the action as he urged the crowd to gee him up. A right to the body did land for the Briton but he faced an anxious wait before scores were read out.
One judge scored it 116-112 for Chilemba, another 116-115 for Bellew and the third had it level at 114-114 to leave both men disappointed.

Bellew said afterwards: 'I thought I won nine out of the 12 rounds and even Chilemba's trainer Buddy McGirt, one of the most respected men in boxing, told me he thought I won. I've got a lot of time for Chilemba he's a good fighter and a tough man but I won the fight.'

Sam Allardyce confirms he wants to keep Andy Carroll at Upton Park after two-goal display

I want him to stay: Allardyce confirms desire to keep Carroll at Upton Park after his two-goal display against West Brom

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

19:44 GMT, 30 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

19:50 GMT, 30 March 2013

Sam Allardyce cautiously underlined his desire to keep Andy Carroll at Upton Park next season after watching the striker fire West Ham to a vital 3-1 victory over West Brom.

Carroll has endured a difficult time in east London since he arrived on loan from Liverpool last summer, but he looked back to his menacing best today, scoring a fine brace which eased any lingering fears of relegation for Allardyce's men.

The 24-year-old fired a bullet header past Ben Foster to put West Ham 1-0 up and he then sealed the victory with one of the goals of the season following Gary O'Neil's strike.

Flying : The on-loan striker celebrates his goal

Loan ranger: Carroll notched his third goal of the season with a thumping header

Carroll watched the ball come over his shoulder after James Collins had sent a long punt up field and he volleyed past Foster with his right foot from a tight angle.

When asked whether he would like to retain the 6ft 3in striker's services next season, the West Ham manager said: 'The answer to that would be yes.

'There is always a possibility. We will look at the end of the season and we will se what negotiations can be done.'

Carroll's time in London has been blighted by injury, but he is now fully fit and judging by today's performance, it will only be a matter of time before he earns an international recall.

Opener: Carroll (centre) heads home O'Neil's cross to give West Ham the lead

In the air: Carroll headed home to give the Iron an early lead

Roy Hodgson omitted Carroll from his squad for the double-header against San Marino and Montenegro, but when the England manager comes to watch the footage of today's game at Upton Park, he will be impressed, Allardyce reckons.

'That was the best we have seen of him here,' Allardyce added.

'Because he has put two goals in, on top of a good performance.

'I hope this kicks him on to being a regular scorer for us in the next eight games.

'He is in a good frame of mind now and finally after a long wait his fitness is good and that's why you are seeing these performances and the goals are coming.'

West Ham are now two points short of the 38-point mark Allardyce thinks the club will need to avoid relegation.

Happy Hammers: West Ham players celebrate Carrol's early effort

Happy Hammers: West Ham now sit six points off the relegation zone with 36 points

The only disappointment for the West Ham boss today was the fact that he is likely to be without George McCartney for the rest of the season after he hobbled off with the same knee injury that had kept him out of the previous four months.

'I would have thought (he will miss the rest of the season),” Allardyce said of the left-back.

'It's a recurrence of the same injury, his medial ligaments, which is a very big disappointment for him and for us.

Downcast: Steve Clarke was disappointed with his side after the 3-1 defeat

Downcast: Steve Clarke was disappointed with his side after the 3-1 defeat

'That was the only downside for us today. Otherwise, it was a great day for us.

'It was a great performance and it takes us ever closer to that safety margin.'

West Brom were poor throughout
today's encounter. Aside from a deflected Romelu Lukaku free-kick in the
first half, Jussi Jaaskelainen barely had a save to make.

The only time the Baggies beat the Finn was three minutes from the end courtesy of a Graham Dorrans penalty.

West Brom boss Steve Clarke said: 'I can have no complaints about the result. West Ham deserved to win.

'It was a difficult afternoon but we haven't had too many of those this season.'

Clarke will speak to Youssouf Mulumbu tomorrow about his red card for petulantly kicking the ball at O'Neil in injury time.

'I said to the group after the game that they must control their frustrations,' the Scot said.

'It doesn't affect today's game but it affects our group and our squad and the next three games.
“We have a small group and it's a big loss for us.

'The time to speak about it is tomorrow. He probably did it out of frustration.'

Charlton 3 Bolton 2 – match report

Charlton 3 Bolton 2: Addicks come from two down to record long overdue home win

PUBLISHED:

17:37 GMT, 30 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

19:49 GMT, 30 March 2013

Charlton came from two goals down to end their home hoodoo and dent Bolton's play-off hopes.

The Addicks were staring at a fourth straight Valley defeat, and 10th of the season, after Wanderers raced into a two-goal lead through Marvin Sordell and Medo Kamara.

But skipper Johnnie Jackson pulled one back before half-time and Bolton fell to pieces in the second half when Sam Ricketts was sent off.

Turnaround: Yann Kermorgant scored from the spot to complete a remarkable comeback for Charlton

Turnaround: Yann Kermorgant scored from the spot to complete a remarkable comeback for Charlton

MATCH FACTS

Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Morrison, Dervite, Wiggins, Pritchard, Hughes (Gower 72), Jackson, Harriott (Wilson 86), Kermorgant,
Fuller (Haynes 86).

Subs Not Used: Button, Green, Obika, Feely.
Booked: Hughes, Solly, Kermorgant.

Goals: Jackson 25, Dervite 60, Kermorgant (pen) 63.

Bolton: Lonergan, Ricketts, Knight, Dawson, Alonso, Medo, Spearing, Pratley (Odelusi 82), Ngog, Sordell (Butterfield 59), Lee (Craig Davies 69).

Subs Not Used: Bogdan, Eagles, Kevin Davies, Wheater.

Sent Off: Ricketts (58), Craig Davies (90).

Booked: Ricketts, Dawson, Spearing, Craig Davies.

Goals: Sordell 4, Medo 20.

Att: 17,322

Ref: Trevor Kettle (Rutland).

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Dorian Dervite immediately dragged
Charlton level and Yann Kermorgant struck the winner from the penalty
spot to complete an unlikely comeback, while Bolton finished with nine
men after a late red card for Craig Davies.

Charlton were missing two of their
senior defenders, Leon Cort and Matt Taylor, through injury and illness
and their patched-up back four were under the cosh from kick-off.

Chung-Yong Lee had already shot over and David Ngog forced a save from Ben Hamer before Bolton took a fourth-minute lead.

Sordell collected Ngog's pass and
turned makeshift centre-half Dervite inside out before tucking the ball
past Hamer.

Charlton attempted to hit back and midfielder Bradley
Pritchard was twice denied by Trotters keeper Andy Lonergan.

But Bolton doubled their advantage in
the 20th minute when Ngog found Medo 25 yards out and the Sierra Leone
midfielder beat Hamer with a swerving drive which went in off the post.

However, five minutes later Charlton
grabbed a lifeline when Bolton cleared a corner only as far as Jackson
on the edge of the area.

The midfielder took the ball past two
defenders before rifling it low into the net.

Captain's strike: Johnnie Jackson started the Charlton revival with his 25th-minute goal

Captain's strike: Johnnie Jackson started the Charlton revival with his 25th-minute goal

They almost grabbed an
equaliser before the break, but Pritchard could not quite get a toe on
Ricardo Fuller's ball across goal.

At the start of the second half
Lonergan could only parry Callum Harriott's deflected shot but Craig
Dawson was on hand to clear.The game swung Charlton's way on the hour
when Ricketts was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Fuller.

Bolton were hit with a double
punishment as, from the free-kick, Kermorgant's curler came back off the
post and Dorvite reacted first to lash in his first goal for the
club.And three minutes later they were ahead.

Lead: Goals from Marvin Sordell (above) and Medo Kamara (below) put Bolton 2-0 ahead at The Valley

Lead: Goals from Marvin Sordell (above) and Medo Kamara (below) put Bolton 2-0 ahead at The Valley

Lead: Goals from Marvin Sordell (above) and Medo Kamara (below) put Bolton 2-0 ahead at The Valley

Fuller burst into the area and was brought down by Darren Pratley, with Kermorgant stepping up to take the penalty.

The Frenchman has form for fluffing
his lines from the spot, having famously tried and failed with a chip in
a play-off penalty shoot-out while playing for Leicester.

But as The Valley held its breath,
Kermorgant wisely opted for power and blasted his shot wide of
Lonergan.Charlton had to endure seven minutes of stoppage time but
Bolton substitute Davies used up most of it by earning himself two
yellow cards to complete Bolton's second-half meltdown.

Off: Dougie Freedman speaks to referee Trevor Kettle after his Bolton team finished the game with nine men

Off: Dougie Freedman speaks to referee Trevor Kettle after his Bolton team finished the game with nine men

Red card: Samuel Ricketts is given his marching orders in the 58th minute

Red card: Samuel Ricketts is given his marching orders in the 58th minute

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David Beckham tempted to extend PSG stay

Beckham tempted to extend PSG stay as he prepares for glamour tie with Barcelona

By
David Kent

PUBLISHED:

19:50 GMT, 30 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

19:53 GMT, 30 March 2013

David Beckham has admitted he is tempted to extend his stay with Ligue 1 leaders Paris St Germain into a second season.

The 37-year-old joined Carlo
Ancelotti's PSG on a five-month deal in January and his brief
contribution has helped the capital club book a Champions League
quarter-final with Barcelona while sustaining their domestic lead over
Lyon.

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Inspiration: David Beckham's (centre) cameo appearance was a key part of PSG extending their lead at the top of Ligue 1

Inspiration: David Beckham's (centre) cameo appearance was a key part of PSG extending their lead at the top of Ligue 1

While Beckham would not publicly commit his future to the Parc des Princes outfit, he revealed he is relishing the opportunity to face Barca in Paris on Tuesday night.

He told Le Parisien: 'We'll see. Who wouldn't want to stay at a place like this

'It's very special but I'm not getting any younger so we'll see how I feel at the end of the season. It's always nice to be wanted.'

Beckham was speaking after a 1-0 victory over reigning French champions Montpellier in which he played 18 minutes as a second-half substitute.

Celebrations: Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kevin Gameiro (background) celebrates his goal

Celebrations: Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kevin Gameiro (background) celebrates his goal

Winner: Beckham challenges Montpellier's John Utaka

Winner: Beckham challenges Montpellier's John Utaka

Sliding in: Beckham wins the ball from Bryan Dabo

Sliding in: Beckham wins the ball from Bryan Dabo

The playmaker could play a bigger
role against the Primera Division leaders given the inside knowledge he
gained from a four-season spell with Real Madrid.

'Now our focus will turn to Barcelona and I think everybody's excited about the game,' he added.

'Whenever I've come up against Barcelona you always get excited about coming up against the best players and teams.

'It's important that we concentrate on our own game and not worry about their game too much.'

VIDEO: David Beckham helps PSG to victory

Red Bull told Mark Webber to cut power "more than Sebastian Vettel"

Red Bull told Webber to cut power 'more than Vettel' in Malaysia

By
Malcolm Folley

PUBLISHED:

19:51 GMT, 30 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

19:51 GMT, 30 March 2013

Red Bull have admitted that world
champion Sebastian Vettel was not told to cut his engine power to the
same level as Mark Webber at the end of last weekend's Malaysian Grand
Prix.

But the team insist they had not
favoured Vettel above his Australian team-mate or that they were happy
to see the German ignore orders and snatch victory from Webber.

In the aftermath of the furore over
Vettel's behaviour, it was claimed Webber, with the German running
behind him, had been told to turn down his engine setting to ensure he
did not experience a mechanical mishap.

Falling out: Mark Webber (left) and Sebastian Vettel on the podium in Malaysia

Falling out: Mark Webber (left) and Sebastian Vettel on the podium in Malaysia

It was presumed Vettel had received the same instruction on the orders of team principal Christian Horner.

But F1 rights holder Bernie Ecclestone told The Mail on Sunday last week: 'After speaking with Christian, it seems Mark was told to turn down the wick on his engine, but the team didn't tell Sebastian to do the same thing.'

And a Red Bull spokesperson admitted: 'Seb's engine was turned down, but not as much as Mark's due to differing strategies and tyre wear.'

Although Horner told Vettel to stay behind Webber, the German had more horsepower to overtake.

Different instructions: Bernie Ecclestone (inset) says Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were given different orders

Different instructions: Bernie Ecclestone (inset) says Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were given different orders

Webber maintained a low profile last week, with no desire to have any contact with Vettel before they meet for the next race in China in 10 days' time, while the German 25-year-old triple world champion was on a charm offensive at Red Bull's HQ in Milton Keynes in midweek to apologise to the workforce for creating worldwide uproar.

Webber's sense of betrayal, after helping to clinch the past three constructors' titles, means he is unlikely to stay with Red Bull when his contract ends this year.

His presence alongside Vettel in the first official media conference in Shanghai a week on Thursday will ensure Red Bull's internecine warfare is the only story in town.

Golden boy: Sebastian Vettel talks with Red Bull principal Christian Horner (right)

Golden boy: Sebastian Vettel talks with Red Bull principal Christian Horner (right)

'It can only be a distraction and energy-sapping,' said a team insider.

Yet, as Ecclestone revealed in this paper last week, Webber would have lost his seat to Lewis Hamilton this season had Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz not offered the Australian first refusal on keeping his drive out of loyalty when the 36-year-old had been talking with Ferrari.

'I wouldn't say that Mark was an out and out, 100 per cent Red Bull guy when he was looking to leave the team,' said Ecclestone. 'If he'd have got the drive with Ferrari, he'd have gone. He was lucky to stay, in my opinion.'

Indeed, Webber is not blameless. In the past, he has shown an unwillingness to toe the line, most recently in Brazil as Vettel clinched his third title.

'There's never been any trust between Webber and Vettel, they're not bosom buddies,' added Ecclestone.

Southampton 2 Chelsea 1: Rafael Benitez stays calm and insists there is a long way to go in race for Champions League qualification

There's a long way to go: Chelsea boss Benitez stays calm despite top-four setback

By
Mark Bryans, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

20:35 GMT, 30 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

20:36 GMT, 30 March 2013

Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez maintains the race for a top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League will run until the end of the season despite seeing his much-changed side slip to a 2-1 defeat at Southampton.

First-half goals from Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert handed Mauricio Pochettino another prized scalp, with Chelsea briefly drawing level courtesy of a John Terry header.

The Blues have now lost three successive away games in the league and dropped below Tottenham into fourth place, with fellow London rivals Arsenal just two points adrift in fifth.

Undone: Rafa Benitez's Chelsea side were defeated 2-1 by Southampton at St Mary's

Undone: Rafa Benitez's Chelsea side were defeated 2-1 by Southampton at St Mary's

Despite the result Benitez, who was again the victim of jeers and negative chanting from the travelling Chelsea support, reckons no-one will be certain of a Champions League position until the very end of the campaign.

'It is the same situation, if we had three points more it would be easier,' he said. 'We still have one game in hand and we have to carry on and concentrate and move on and start thinking about Monday (FA Cup quarter-final replay v Manchester United).

'In the league you still have a lot of games and I think it (the battle for a top-four finish) will run for the rest of the season.'

Opener: Jay Rodriguez slotted the ball past Petr Cech to give Southampton the lead

Opener: Jay Rodriguez slotted the ball past Petr Cech to give Southampton the lead

Back on level terms: John Terry headed home from a corner to equalise for Chelsea

Back on level terms: John Terry headed home from a corner to equalise for Chelsea

This was Chelsea's first game in a run of six matches in a 16-day period and Benitez made no fewer than seven changes from the team that won against West Ham before the international break.

The former Liverpool boss said the fixture pile-up is something the Football Association needs to 'look at' in the future but did not regret rotating his players.

'We had to manage the squad,' he said. 'We didn't have many options in some positions so we had the players we had to use. You have to approach every game like it is the most important and we thought with these players we would be fine.

'I think that you could see that in the first half we didn't have the intensity we were expecting.

'We improved in the second half, made more chances, but still we didn't make the right decisions in the final third but at least we were there and made the chances.'

Sublime: Rickie Lambert scored a beautiful free-kick to put the Saints back ahead

Sublime: Rickie Lambert scored a beautiful free-kick to put the Saints back ahead

Pochettino, who has now won three, drawn three and lost three games since replacing Nigel Adkins as Saints manager in January was quick to defend his Chelsea counterpart following the game.

'I have a lot of sympathy (for Benitez's position),' he said.

'I fully recognise the job that he has done. For me he is one of the best managers in the world and he has my full respect for what he has achieved in football.'

Going places: Mauricio Pochettino believes his Southampton side are on the right path

Going places: Mauricio Pochettino believes his Southampton side are on the right path

The win against Chelsea follows earlier home successes against Manchester City and Liverpool and Pochettino believes beating some of the league's biggest names can only boost the morale around the club.

'Victories like those of today prove that we are on the right path,' he said.

'It is very important for the confidence of my players and especially the people surrounding our club – the technical staff.

'It is important that we believe we can achieve results as we saw today and we can continue achieving them in the future.'

Robin Van Persie hails Manchester United"s team of winners

Van Persie hails United's team of winners as they edge closer to title

PUBLISHED:

15:35 GMT, 30 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

20:23 GMT, 30 March 2013

Manchester United moved another step closer to the Barclays Premier League title as they won 1-0 at Sunderland, and striker Robin van Persie was quick to praise the attitude of his team-mates.

United are 18 points clear of nearest rivals Manchester City as a result and it would take a collapse of dramatic proportions for them to throw the title away.

Van Persie claimed the only goal today, although replays suggested his shot was not going in until Titus Bramble put it into his own net, but the striker was not too concerned.

Almost there: Robin Van Persie celebrates United's win

Almost there: Robin Van Persie celebrates United's win

Get in there: Robin Van Persie celebrates with team-mates

Get in there: Robin Van Persie celebrates with team-mates

'We got the three points, we knew it would be tough because Sunderland work hard and we had to dig in, but we deserved it,' he told Sky Sports 2.

'It didn't matter who scored today, it was all about the three points.

'This team is full of winners, everyone knows what they have to do and it was never in doubt for me. I was confident we would win.'

A title coronation seems inevitable in
the next couple of weeks and midfielder Michael Carrick is anticipating
winning another medal.

'We played some good football today, even if we didn't get as many goalscoring opportunities as we'd have liked,' he added.

'It was all about coming here and winning. We're getting closer and it's one game less. We have to keep going.'

Keeping an eye on it: Van Persie sees his goal go in off Bramble

Keeping an eye on it: Van Persie sees his goal go in off Bramble

Eyes on the ball: Sunderland captain John O' Shea tackles Manchester United's Van Persie

Eyes on the ball: Sunderland captain John O' Shea tackles Manchester United's Van Persie

United next face Chelsea in the FA Cup replay on Monday and Van Persie has warned fans not to expect a classic.

It is the kind of scheduling that has England's European counterparts scratching their heads in bewilderment.

And Van Persie points out it is difficult for the players to reach a high level of performance twice in such a short period of time.

'It is not ideal,' he told MUTV.

'Normally on the second day your muscles are quite bad but now we have to play at this certain time.

'It is a shame but we can't do anything about it because there are Champions League games in midweek and Chelsea are still in the Europa League.

'We just have to deal with it.

'People have to realise they can't expect a great game of football because it is not possible.

'If it happens I am glad, but don't expect it because these games are just too close to each other.'

Hectic schedule: Jonny Evans admits United are heading into the unknown during their packed Easter period

Hectic schedule: Jonny Evans admits United are heading into the unknown during their packed Easter period

Van Persie was speaking after
United's 1-0 win at Sunderland, which maintains their 15-point advantage
over Manchester City with just eight games remaining.

City will be the opponents for
Monday's victors at Stamford Bridge, with Van Persie eager to get his
hands on a trophy he won with Arsenal but United have not lifted since
2004.

'It has been a while,' he said.

'It has been nine years since we last won it and we want to win the double.

'We made a big step today but we want to go for both. We have a chance to reach the semi-final against City.'

Jonny Evans admitted Manchester
United will head into the unknown as they attempt to book an FA Cup
semi-final place just 48 hours after strengthening their grip on the
Barclays Premier League title.

Evans said: 'I have never really been in that situation before, so it will be new to probably most of us.

'It's
just all about tonight. We will probably go back and get a good
recovery session in and make sure we have done everything we can
physically to make sure we are right for the game on Monday.'

Evans
will make the trip to Stamford Bridge hoping for a start after getting
his chance on Wearside as a first-half substitute when full-back Rafael
da Silva limped off.

Chris
Smalling moved from central defence to right-back to accommodate the
25-year-old as aUnited defence which had been criticised earlier in the
campaign recorded its sixth successive league clean sheet.

Diving in: Alex Buttner slides in on Sunderland's Simon Mignolet

Diving in: Alex Buttner slides in on Sunderland's Simon Mignolet

Asked about the difficulty of
competing with Ferdinand and Vidic for a place in the heart of the back
four, he said: 'You are always competing.

'Even if one of those two isn't fit,
you have got Chris Smalling, who started at centre-back today. I'm sure
he was disappointed to get moved to right-back, it's not his favourite
position, but for the sake of the team, he did that.

'Phil
Jones is another one. The competition is all over the pitch. You look
at the players who didn't start today or have been left behind – it's
some team, really.'

Monday
night's game represents an opportunity to keep hopes of yet another
Double alive with United marching inexorably towards the league title.

Their
recent surge – they have now lost only once in 22 games in all
competitions, and that in controversial circumstances to Real Madrid in
the Champions League – has been based on defensive resilience rather
than attacking flair, and Evans admits it is a pleasant change for the
men at the back to receive the plaudits normally reserved for their
attacking colleagues.

He said with a smile: “You have probably noticed we haven't scored as many goals. It's getting that fine balance.

'We will take it the way we are at the minute. Especially as a defender, it's better to keep clean sheets than having the forwards getting all the glory, I suppose, so we are just happy.

'Clean sheets, that's what we want as defenders, so we are delighted with that.'

Sir Alex Ferguson used the depth of his squad at the Stadium of Light with Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney not even making the 18.

Da Silva must be a doubt after being unable to continue against Sunderland, while Vidic was left clutching his back after a rugged challenge with striker Danny Graham, although he made it through to the final whistle.